Lectionary Cycle C, Reflections on Mass Readings — June 29, 2013 at 8:13 am

Jesus’ Teaching on Detachment from the World

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This Sunday’s Gospel reading at Mass comes from Luke 9:51-62. The first five verses concerns Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and how He was rejected in a Samaritan village. I reflected on those earlier verses in my September 2010 entry Sainthood is a Decision.

Today I’m going to write about vv. 57-62 and its prefigurement with Elijah and Elisha in 1 Kings 19:16-21. In this narrative YHWH tells His faithful prophet Elijah that Elisha would be his successor. This command from YHWH was preceded by Elijah’s two complaints that he was ready to resign from his commission. The prophet had arrived at a place where he had become tired, defeated, and alone. He had done all that the Lord had commanded him to do, but in the end the Israelites had forsaken the covenant, torn down their altars, put the prophets to the sword, and was seeking Elijah’s very life. YHWH had attempted to let Elijah know that He was still with him and that e had nothing to fear, but the prophet had gone as far as he could. Interesting here; YHWH had compassion on Elijah – perhaps because he had been faithful in all that he was called to do. Some might look at Elijah attempting to quit as an act of disobedience to his calling, but it seems that the Lord heard his cry and found that it was not good for Elijah to be alone and feeling as if his labor was in vain. Elijah and ElishaIn Elisha the prophet Elijah found not only a helpmate, but also new purpose. He had poured himself into the Israelites to no avail, but now he would pour himself into Elisha and be rewarded to see the sweet fruits of that labor.

After Elijah invest Elisha with his cloak “Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back!” How’s that for mixed signals Elisha must have mused. His response was, “Have I done anything to you?” There was no response back from Elijah, and neither does the text tell us that Elisha went home to kiss his parents goodbye. Out of Elijah’s silence the prophet-in-training seems to get it. He understands that if he is going to follow Elijah he needs to detach himself from the world, so what he does next is take all of his “yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.”

On His way to Jerusalem, as we read in the Gospel narrative, Jesus doesn’t invest or call anyone by name, as He did with the twelve Apostles, but He does encounter three men whom He educates on the price of following Him, which is detachment from the world. The first man tells Him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

To another man Jesus said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

The last man said, ““I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The question for us to consider is, ‘How do you incorporate the call to be detached from the world and loving nothing greater than the Lord into your life?’

I have a confession. I have a Holy envy for my friends who have been able to serve only God and not have to go some job that is detached from the proclamation of the Gospel. Ever since Christ found me in 2004 I’ve been praying to God for the opportunity to serve only Him. He answered that prayer while I was in prison by giving me the opportunity to work at the prison hospital and hospice as a care provider and Chaplain’s assistant. Those were the best years of my Christian life. Once my Holy envy led me to jump out on faith – this was back in 2011. I quit my job and trusted the Lord to provide for me. That’s when I found out that Jesus doesn’t pay everyone’s rent and utility bills. I’m still praying that same prayer and I know that one day that He is going to position me again to serve only Him. I always tell people that if God doesn’t send me a wife by the time my youngest graduates from high school, I’m going to become a priest. Indeed, the only reason I haven’t burned my plowing equipment (lawnmower) already and put on a habit and sandals is because I honor my call to be the father the girls that God has given me charge of. But oh how I long with a Holy desire to be free and detached from the world, so that I can follow my King with complete abandon.

Here’s an area that we can’t really dictate to other Christians. People will detach themselves from the world and follow Christ with abandon according to the degree of love that they have for Him. In the spiritual life we find that the love sought is the love received, and the love received is the love that is too much to contain. That is to say, that the deeper our love for Christ is the more of His love that flows out of us, and His love is a pure and Holy love that is detachment from all that doesn’t glorify His Father. Therefore, detachment isn’t something we effort towards; rather, it’s something that the true love of Christ produces.
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PSALMS 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.”

I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.

You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.

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Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.